Job expectations

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MIKE WOOTTON

MIKE WOOTTON

ALTHOUGH very tempted to write something about the Mamasapano events I won’t other than to say that as “the truth” is such an illusory concept in the Philippines, in common with I think many others, I have little faith that any unadulterated version of events will ever surface. How can anything ever improve if mistakes are inadmissible?

So to avoid the temptation to write more on that disastrous matter I came across a survey recently carried out in the UK of the jobs that people would ideally like to have given a free choice. Opinion surveys in the UK generally tend to be objective and not subject to spinning for the sake of political agendas.

People were asked their preference from a list of 31 different jobs ranging from Formula One racing driver, model, Member of Parliament (Congressman) to refuse collector. The job thought most desirable was to be an author (60 percent), closely followed in second place by being a librarian (54 percent), and in third place an academic (51 percent). The least desirable job was being a miner, meaning being underground rather than in open cast operations. The next least desirable job at number 30 out of 31 was to be a call center agent, several places below being a refuse collector or a cleaner.

By my observation, having a job in a call center here in the Philippines is something which is much sought after, most likely because it is work that is within reach of many people, and in a nation of insufficient opportunities, that makes it an achievable prospect.


Being a Member of Parliament came out at number 13 of the 31 choices so clearly a political position in the UK is not as attractive as it is here, where the prospect of having big discretionary budgets is a lure to many. It ranked equal in appeal to having a job as a movie star and that is probably how people think around here—congressman/movie star, both routes to fame and riches.

It’s all a question of expectations, rewards and achievability. In the Philippines, people have been over time beaten into having low expectations. Keep your expectations low and there is less likelihood of disappointment. Many ordinary people have just given up, believing “there is no chance of me ever being able to achieve that and even if I did after 7 years of study qualify to be a medical doctor to get a job would be next to impossible and many of them don’t get paid too much anyway.”

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” says Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man. The way in which Philippines society operates certainly fights against that wisdom. But it’s not just the lack of job opportunity that the survey reflects; it’s the perceptions of people as to what is an attractive job in a fairly open market.

Authors and librarians in the UK, unless you happen to be a well published and famous author, don’t get paid too much so the desire for money is not a main driver—investment bankers are ranked at 21 out of 31, same position as firefighters—nor for that matter is the desire for fame, with movie star and astronaut coming fairly well down the list of choices. It seems to be about where people want to see themselves fitting into a society which allows a wide choice of work types. No doubt the people surveyed in the UK chose their preferences without hesitation as in that country, in general all things are possible. It is not the same in the Philippines, where life choices are made from an inadequate educational system for which there is a general inability to enter into an excruciatingly narrow job market, where once employed, the primary objective is to provide for dependents.

This is not an environment in which a middle class can grow and develop let alone provide the openness of opportunity necessary for the Philippines to grow into an advanced economy. The current GDP statistics much trumpeted by financial analysts are just creative accounting. Scant if any progress is made in motivating the population at large to believe that to become an author or a librarian here in the Philippines is a viable career choice. More work is needed to straighten out the “fundamentals”; only then can real economic and development progress be achieved!

Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Justaskingseriously on

    Somehow I read “strengthen” instead of “straighten” the fundamentals. So RPH’s fundamentals are already there; these just need straightening. In my bias, I must have been convinced that “weak” describes the Philippines. Jobs are integral to development. Overseas jobs? OFW’s work for the development of foreign nations. Their remittances help their dependents whose buying power contributes to some sort of visible progress for their families and for the various merchants; note the proliferation of condos. Wonder if that can be called development? Call Center jobs provide salaries connected with foreign development. Hence the higher salaries relative to locally supported salaries. Would “tuwid na daan” make the salaries of local workers straightened? Would raising salaries straighten the government workers’ propensity for bribery? The Liberal Party’s tuwid na daan captured the voters’ hopes and dreams — and billions in taxes to buy Congress. The tuwid na daan needs tuwiding, oops, to weeding; if it can’t be straightened it might as well be uprooted like weeds that they are.

    The Asean integration is around the corner. More windows to the neighboring countries open for overseas filipino workers. More development of neighboring nations? Let’s hope that philippine windows will enable neighboring nations to see what really goes on in their underdeveloped neighbor. Watching eyes will make the people and the people in the government straighten their crooked ways. Filipinos are at their best when there are guests. But when guests overstay? They are no longer guests. Then back to business as usual.

    The PPP is an idea designed for progress. The Private sector Partners with the Public sector. Projects that are proper to government are privatized. Who pays? The taxpayers, of course. The government collects taxes from the people. The people pay to use the infrastructures built by the private sector that pays taxes to the government. What does the government do with the taxes? Bonanza for tuwid na daan. Is this the result of people trained to conceive of project studies like they learn at the Asian Institute of Management? An ex professor at the AIM works at the center of power–the Mala Kanyang Utak. The government has been turned into a project study modeled after a business enterprise. The government is the colonizer. That needs to be straightened. ASAP.

  2. What are the fundamentals? In my view, they are 1. Food production 2. Peace and Order 3. Education 4. Health 5. Jobs. Only industrialization can absorb the endless supply of jobseekers, and with OFWs remittances nearing $25Billion a year, our potential is almost inexhaustible if only we had the right leadership that can utilize this enormous bounty as capital . The divergence between our current decrepit state in these five areas and the lender’s metrics of high flying GDP growth rates and credit ratings reflects the realities on the ground where people live and the world of lenders’ propaganda up there in the ivory tower where technocrats live. Just simple common sense and practical solutions are what we need in place of lender’s ideology.

  3. But something i have noticed in the philippines is people never discuss salaries. They say working in the office is a good job. I always ask what office & the answer is always the office. I wonder if they realise a clerk in the customs is working in the office & i know one of those was only on P10,000 per month salary. Now that isnt good pay is it. Its only 333 pesos per day, less than a gardener or builder earns. I know some office work pays decent money but i dont have a clue which office pays what.
    Where i think most here make decent money is what they can make illegally on top of their salaries. A quick example is in the immigration after doing all the paper works & then at the last window befor being issued with my i card we were told if you want your card today its an extra P1,500 or you have to come back tomorrow. Now she didnt tell us that whilst we stood at the window but she came out to us. My wife called her bluff & said she would go to the top man up stairs, she said wait & then told us its ok she had arranged for us to get it today. My wife should have reported her but she didnt & so she will try it on again with others & many will pay.
    Its that & everything like that which needs to be sorted then pay will be just that pay & so wages will have to sooner rather than later rise or there could be a revolution.

  4. Claro Apolinar on

    This again shows how important are education and boosting the dignity of each human being, which became universal in Europe including the UK because of the Welfare State principle (which even the conservative parties there have not totally rejected).

    It also show that in the UK values are still basically correct in mentality of the majority of the people.

  5. Justaskingseriously on

    How do you strengthen what fundamentals? There is the double question that needs addressing. Were the people surveyed from UK? Does UK refer to only England? I tend to think that the people of England — and not so much of the other member nations of the United Kingdom — would enormously want to gain perpetual adulation like what has been heaped on William Shakespeare. What is it they say? Strive for immortality? No need to ask how, if Shakespeare is definitely immortal.

    Definitely so easy to strive for immortality in a country where wealth poured in from colonies all over the globe for centuries. Write a book? Plant a tree? Have kids? Those are the ways to immortality. Is one way less than the others? Britons definitely think so per the survey.

    Life in any colony could never compare with that in the colonizing country. While life is a constant struggle in one, it is a bore in the other. Writing and reading are ideal ways to offset boredom and perchance gain fame and sophistication.

    Back to the double question. Multi-national corporations. What are these but modern colonizers? Profits pour back into the headquarters? Where are the headquarters? You can find the heads of the octopi if you ask Rigoberto Tiglao to help you. So what fundamentals again? Readers who have the luxury to read would appreciate knowing what these are.